“Fatness and obesity in Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans (LBT) women are a result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – self-inflicted abuse on the body in order to shun any unwanted sexual attention or emotional interest from people,” said Dr Pinar Ilkkaracan of Turkey, at the 5th CSBR Sexuality Institute at Alexandria, Egypt, which I attended in September of last year.
I am no exception to the LBT women Pinar was referring to. I am turning 37 this year, which makes me “older” than most of my other LBT and straight friends. Unfortunately, there is no culture-specific information to reinforce Pinar’s theory concerning the subtle forms of discrimination and sexual violence that fat and obese queer women experience in their daily lives.
Fatphobia-induced sexism, xenophobia and homophobia go back a long way. “Homosexuality” and “obesity” were both equated as “diseases” by the medical community in the 19th century. Oddly enough, the medical establishment at that time had pathologized same-sex sexual attraction and larger bodies to offer cures for these newly discovered diseases. Those who deviated from social norms were assured that, with the help of medical science, homosexuals and the obese could become “normal,” that is, heterosexual and thin.
Gay rights and fat rights advocates challenged these notions in the latter half of the 20th century in the West. The movements were aimed at de-pathologizing what medicine called “homosexuality” and “obesity,” by asserting that different sexual orientations and body sizes were both inevitable and largely unalterable, and that being gay or fat was not a disease.
The repercussions of pathologizing are visible even today. The Atlantic Wire offers a great analysis on the “fat lesbian” study initiated by the US government very recently. The Obama administration is spending $1.5 million just to find out why lesbians are fat. Why there isn’t a study called “why straight men are fat”? or “why are gay men and butch women desirable?” or why “fat gays and fat lesbians are more likely to get venereal diseases and scabies and their health insurance sucks?” or “why lesbians and gays are more prone to PTSD and hypertension than straight men and women”? Why not? [Read more...]